Monday 29 November 2021

Jugulator - Under the Verdict (2021)

Country: Algeria
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Nov 2021
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Every time I get a chance to review something from Africa, I leap at the opportunity and I couldn't be happier that this underrepresented continent in the world of rock and metal often provides us with quality music. I just wish there was more of it! But hey, here's Jugulator from Algeria, formed in 2014 out of the cold ashes of an earlier band called Curse of Pharaoh. They play a technical form of thrash metal that's very much in the west coast American style with some British influences in there too, I think. I'm not discerning any particular local flavour.

The main man seems to be Ramzy Abbas, who founded the band and provides both lead vocals and lead guitar. His vocals are decent, if nothing special, but his guitarwork is excellent and I dug this a lot from an instrumental standpoint. Backing him up on rhythm guitar is Abdelwahab Merzouk, who goes by Death Corpse, even though I couldn't detect any black metal influence here—this is a pure thrash album—and the pair constantly weave riffs out of nothing like there's a neverending supply of them in Algiers. They just keep on coming and they never let us down.

This is perhaps more evident the longer the songs get and these do tend to stretch: they start out around the five minute mark with Strangers Conflict and Who Will Save Us; leap into Civil War, an epic which nudges past nine; and then settle into a comfortable six to seven minute length for the remainder of the album. That epic may or may not be the best song here, but it surely must be the crowning achievement of the incessant riff machine angle of Jugulator. It's the gift that keeps on giving on that front, with every riff giving way to another and another until we're lost in the song and still thoroughly engaged when it wraps nine minutes in.

I like this album. It's not a bludgeoning assault the way that a lot of modern thrash can be when it really benefits from 21st century production technology. It's more thoughtful thrash, a sedate but powerful album that takes its time and lets these songs breathe. This is the element that reminds me of second wave British thrash bands like Hydra Vein and Metal Messiah, who were never quite prog thrash but did come close to it with their intricacy.

There's a lot of midpace stuff on offer but it feels deliberate and worthy, delivering what the song needs whatever its pace. So often nowadays, extended midpace sections suggest that a band can't keep up any more and need a bit of a break. I never felt that here, as Jugulator feel always ready to speed up again. Crysis is a solid example of this. It's midpace for most of the song, but intricate and clever with it, and there's one point where it ramps up majestically for a sprint. Blood on the Red Flag does that the other way round, spending most of its time up tempo and slowing down as needed, and it's even better still.

I could have done with a few more hooks to make it all a little more memorable, but this is a peach of a technical thrash album, one for the guitarists to be absorbed by. Ramzy Abbas's guitarwork is the highlight, ably assisted by Merzouk and a capable rhythm section. Abderezzak Yahimi's drums are impeccable and the well mixed bass of Nour El Islem Aidi, who goes by Black Bear, gets plenty of notable moments too. This is a second album for Jugulator, after 2019's Ad Exitium, and I'm now eager for a third. This is very close to an 8/10 for me. I want to see if the next one will be.

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